A nerve wracking two day ordeal has left a Bracebridge woman near penniless.
The woman, who doesn’t want to be identified, tells Muskoka411 she was bilked out of $16,000 by fraudsters who posed as officers from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).
She received the first call Tuesday and called them back Wednesday after she was told the CRA had identified discrepancies in her tax returns from recent years leading them to believe she had defrauded the government.
The fraudsters even told her there was a warrant out for her arrest for tax evasion and tax fraud and that the only way things could ‘get fixed’ was by sending them money.
She says she spoke to three people during the ordeal who identified themselves as ‘Officer Robert Sneed’, ‘Officer Robert Watson’ and ‘Officer Johnny Lopez’, who she says also identified himself as a lawyer.
She says they suggested that the problem could be dealt with in one of two ways – by them going public about her tax issues or by her dealing with them privately, which unfortunately for her, she did.
The woman tells us she was basically kept prisoner in her car for nine hours each day on Wed and Thurs as they told her not to make any calls, only to answer their calls and even not to leave her car.
She says the number they called from was 1-289-512-0307.
In the end, she made five money transfers to them and police now say she won’t be able to get any of it back.
Now the woman, who is next to penniless as she took the money from her line of credit, urges everyone to contact police if they face similar scenarios.
She says the scammers were utterly convincing and she hopes others don’t ever have to suffer as she did. Making matters worse – she’s been off work now for almost a year due to illness.
For the OPP release that was prompted by this case, see below:
Bracebridge Ontario Provincial Police have received several complaints from victims of a common fraud that involves a fraudster impersonating a representative of the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).
Whether by telephone or by email, the pitch involves one of two variations. The fraudsters are phishing for identification; or asking that outstanding taxes be paid by a money service business or by pre-paid debit / credit cards.
•There is notification by phone or email from the “CRA” claiming there is a refund pending. In order for the recipient to receive the refund they must provide personal information.
•Consumers and businesses receive a notification by phone or email that they owe “back taxes” as the result of an audit. The payment must be made immediately to avoid a fine or the recipient is told there is an outstanding warrant that can be avoided if the payment is made promptly. In many cases, individuals are told they will be arrested if the taxes are not paid right away.
Warning sign(s) – How to protect yourself
· Do not take immediate action. Verify that what you are being told is the truth.
· Ask yourself why the CRA would be asking for personal information over the phone or e-mail that they likely already have on file for you as a taxpayer.
· Contact the CRA to confirm that you in fact owe back taxes, or are entitled to a refund, before providing any personal or banking information.
· For more information about Fraud Scams involving the CRA visit the Canada Revenue Web page at www.cra-arc.gc.ca/scrty/frdprvntn/menu-eng.html
Members of the public are encouraged to participate in social media conversations to access tips and other resources to identify and report fraud using #dontbeavictim #fraudprevention and #OPPtips.
The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre reports 66 per cent of all Canadian-based ‘mass marketing fraud’ (MMF) scams in 2014 occurred to victims online via the internet or e-mail, while another 20 per cent occurred by telephone. In all, 13,701 victims of mass marketing fraud lost a total of just under $69-million last year – higher than in 2013. The majority of victims were between 50 and 70 years of age.
If you suspect you or someone you know has been a victim of fraud, contact your local police service or CrimeStoppers at 1-800-222-8477 (TIPS) or online at https://www.tipsubmit.com/ .
FRAUD…Recognize it…Report it…Stop it.